Meteora and Delphi: Exploring Two Ancient Wonders in a 2-Day Journey

Greece is a pure amalgamation of beauty and history. While most people visit the country for its beaches and islands especially Santorini, there is no dearth of history buffs visiting the country. But apart from all this, Greece surprised us when we started exploring it a little more. From Mystical Meteora and Mythical Delphi: A Tale of Ancient Marvel.

These sights are gorgeous
These sights are gorgeous

While researching about the places to visit we came across one of unique world heritage site in Greece – Meteora. Situated at a distance of about 250 kms from Delphi, it forms a perfect circuit to visit while in Greece.

Most of the people have heard about Delphi but not Meteora.  So in case you are planning to visit Delphi, extend your journey by a day and do include Meteora in your itinerary. Believe us – the place is simply breathtaking and will not disappoint you with opportunities galore to keep you engaged and excited.

Available Travel Options

There are myriad of options to choose from, depending on your interest, time at hand and the places that you want to cover.

You can PLAN to do –
  • Athens-Delphi-Athens
  • Athens – Meteora – Athens
  • Athens-Delphi-Meteora-Athens
  • Athens-Meteora-Delphi-Athens
You can CHOOSE to –
  • Go via tour operators who plan all the above options in 1-3 days, depending on what you choose. You can opt for 1 day tours if you are short on time where you will be back in Athens by Evening. For Delphi, mostly bus tours are available but for Meteroa 1 day tours there is a train ride to and fro. Starting early morning around 7AM. You can be back in Athens by evening 8PM.
  • If you choose for more than a day plan then the cost will be higher as your stay will be included in the package tour. So choose wisely. There are so many options that one gets confused. And to add to the confusion they have sunset tours for Meteora which are charged a little more than the usual tour.
  • Go on your own using public transport which includes a beautiful train ride of Athens to Kalambaka. You can book your train tickets and hop on. Once in kalambaka you can opt for 1 day tours from there which cost your around 30-40$ per person for Meteora tours. You can rent a car as well if interested. If in case you plan to go to Delphi, then it’s an extra effort because the transportation options between the two towns are very limited. Rental cab costs a fortune but buses have fixed timings so you will have to ask around for that. This option is lighter on the pocket given you have ample time at hand because bus frequency is not great in this region.
  • Rent a cab and enjoy self drive. This is the most preferred, viable and a perfect option. We insist you to go for this option if you have no qualms driving around. The route is superb and roads are fantastic. Drive experience is just amazing. Also it gives you the flexibility to plan your day as per your convenience and interest.

Our Journey to Kastraki

We went with option 3 and rented a car to cover the full circuit of Athens-Meteora-Delphi-Athens in 2 days with a night over in Kastraki village which is situated right at the foothills of Meteora. It was the best decision we made. We started early in the morning at 8AM from Athens to Kalambaka.

Scenic drive to Kalambaka from Athens
Scenic drive to Kalambaka from Athens

Drive is around 350 kms and we managed to cover it in about 3.5 hrs. Roads are smooth and we reached Kalambaka without any hassles enroute. Route is quite scenic and we really enjoyed our drive. Entry into Kalambaka is very interesting – it almost seems to the gateway to heaven as you see towering mountains on both sides of the road.

First view of Meteora just outside Kalambaka
First view of Meteora just outside Kalambaka

Kastraki – Gateway to Meteora’s Mystique

We reached Kastraki by 11:30 AM and headed directly to our hotel. We had already done the booking for our stay and it was not hard to locate the hotel.

Hotel was decorated quite interestingly. Quite old and antique artefacts were put on display which the owner had gathered from his travel journeys. Room was decent and very cozy. Being at the foothills, we found the place a little cooler than Athens. Owner told us about the monasteries that can be visited and the timings for those. He handed us a big map with locations of all monasteries around the area.

We quickly freshened up and headed for our adventure of the day. We had zeroed in on this place after a lot of research and contemplation. The mountains of Meteora literally fascinated us and we wanted to make the most of this opportunity. So without wasting any minute, we headed out.

Monasteries of Meteora

Monasteries of Meteora are perched at the top of towering sandstone pillars and huge rocky mountains which adorn the whole place. And the winding roads ahead looked very enticing.

Curves of the road leading to the monasteries from Kalambaka
Curves of the road leading to the monasteries from Kalambaka

The history of Meteora dates back to the 11th century when monks seeking solitude and refuge from political turmoil began to inhabit the caves and rock shelters of the region. Over time, these ascetics began to construct monastic communities, defying gravity and creating structures that seemed to touch the heavens.

Even though there are 24 monasteries around the area, only 6 of them are open to the visitors. Each with its own unique history and architectural splendor. As you ascend the winding paths and staircases carved into the rock, you can’t help but feel a sense of awe and reverence for the monks who built these sanctuaries with nothing but faith and determination.

Monastery atop rock pillars of Meteora
Monastery atop rock pillars of Meteora

The monasteries offer breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, with rugged cliffs and lush valleys stretching as far as the eye can see.

  • The Great Meteoron Monastery:The Great Meteoron, built in 14th century, is the largest and oldest of the monasteries in Meteora. It offers a comprehensive insight into the history and religious life of Meteora. Monastery offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
    • Opening Time: Usually around 9:00 AM
    • Closing Time: Generally around 4:00 PM
Unique Monastery at Meteora
Unique Monastery at Meteora
  • Varlaam Monastery: Built in the 16th century, Varlaam Monastery is renowned for its impressive architecture and exquisite frescoes. As visitors ascend a staircase of over 195 steps to reach the monastery, they are also awed by the feat of engineering in its construction.
    • Opening Time: Typically around 9:00 AM
    • Closing Time: Generally around 4:00 PM
These sights are gorgeous
These sights are gorgeous
  • Roussanou Monastery: Perched on a steep cliff, Roussanou Monastery is known for its picturesque setting and well-preserved frescoes. Founded in the 16th century, monastery’s picturesque setting adds to its allure while also providing a glimpse into the daily life of the monks who once inhabited this remote sanctuary.
    • Opening Time: Usually around 9:00 AM
    • Closing Time: Generally around 5:00 PM
The two of us amidst the beautiful meteora landscape
The two of us amidst the beautiful landscape
  • St. Stephen’s Monastery: St. Stephen’s Monastery, also known as the Monastery of Agios Stefanos, is the easiest to access among the Meteora monasteries. Dating back to the 16th century, it features a beautiful chapel  and a small museum.
    • Opening Time: Typically around 9:00 AM
    • Closing Time: Generally around 1:30 PM, then reopens later in the afternoon (around 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM)
  • Holy Trinity Monastery: Made famous by its appearance in the James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only,” Holy Trinity Monastery is perched atop a rocky pinnacle. Founded in the 15th century, he challenging ascent via a steep staircase adds to the adventure of visiting this monastery.
    • Opening Time: Usually around 9:00 AM
    • Closing Time: Generally around 1:30 PM, then reopens later in the afternoon (around 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM)
Happy to Pose
Happy to Pose
  • St. Nicholas Anapausas Monastery: The smallest and most secluded of the Meteora monasteries, St. Nicholas Anapausas is known for its peaceful atmosphere and stunning views. Founded in the 16th century, the monastery features a charming chapel and a small courtyard where visitors can enjoy the tranquility of this sacred site.
    • Opening Time: Typically around 9:00 AM
    • Closing Time: Generally around 1:30 PM, then reopens later in the afternoon (around 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM)
The two of us
The two of us

Please Note – Each of these monasteries has different opening & closing timings. Also all 6 monasteries are at quite a distance from each other so you really have to plan out your whole tour – which ones to visit. If you are exploring the monasteries on your own, take a rented vehicle from Kalambaka. This will help you visit the monasteries. Covering them all by walk is gonna be a little tough. Try and connect with the locals to chalk out your itinerary based on your preferences and convenience.

Tips –

To optimize your visit to the monasteries of Meteora while considering their opening and closing times, here’s a suggested sequence:

  • Great Meteoron Monastery: Start early as it opens around 9:00 AM. Visitors here are asked to wear a wrap-around , especially if their clothing is deemed inappropriate for the religious site. This is a common practice in many religious sites to ensure respect for the sanctity of the place
  • Varlaam Monastery: Visit Varlaam Monastery next, which is close to Great Meteoron. Aim to arrive around mid-morning to avoid crowds and make the most of your time.
  • Roussanou Monastery: Head to Roussanou Monastery, which is relatively nearby. Arriving in the late morning or early afternoon allows you to explore without feeling rushed.
  • St. Nicholas Anapafsas Monastery: After Roussanou, visit St. Nicholas Anapafsas Monastery. It’s also conveniently located and can be visited in the afternoon before it closes.
  • Holy Trinity Monastery: Make your way to Holy Trinity Monastery, which is a bit more isolated and requires some time to reach. Plan to arrive in the mid-afternoon to ensure you have enough time to explore before it closes.
  • St. Stephen’s Monastery: Finish your tour with St. Stephen’s Monastery, which is relatively close to other monasteries but may require a bit of backtracking. Arrive in the late afternoon to avoid any issues with closing times.

After you are done with the tour, do catch your breath and stop anywhere along the route to soak in the beauty that you were rushing through the day to cover. Sunset from up here is mesmerising. Do take some time to sit and relax and enjoy the moments of bliss. Trust us – it’s an experience you’ll cherish, ending your day on an exhilarating high.

Meteora is famous for its Sunset and hordes of people gather around sunset points to capture the majestic moment.
Meteora is famous for its Sunset and hordes of people gather around sunset points to capture the majestic moment.

The landscapes that you get to witness here are quite unique and you get amazed at the fact that this is all in Greece. Typically, Greece itineraries revolve around beaches and islands, with Meteora often overlooked. However, we strongly urge you to include this destination in your plans.

Freedom....
Freedom….

In the evening, we returned to Kastraki, the serene base village, where tranquility filled the air with soft conversations and occasional laughter echoing in the streets. We leisurely wandered through the picturesque lanes and discovered a charming family-owned restaurant offering delightful vegetarian dishes. Opting to dine there, we savored every moment, thoroughly enjoying the peaceful ambiance and delicious meal.

Contented with our day’s adventures, we returned to our hotel, ready to unwind and call it a day.

Our Journey to Delphi

Kastraki to Delphi is a distance of about 250KM and maps showed that it would take us somewhere around 3 hrs to reach Delphi. We started from our hotel for Delphi around 9 in the morning. It was a bright sunny day. We knew we would get very little time in Delphi as we were to head back to Athens the same evening. Delphi to Athens is another 2 hour drive (approx 150 KM).

Road leading to Delphi
Road leading to Delphi

The drive from Kastraki to Delphi offers a mix of scenic beauty and typical road vistas. As you navigate the approximately 250KM journey, you’ll encounter stretches of picturesque countryside, quaint villages, and winding mountain roads. Along the way, you may come across charming roadside cafes or local eateries where you can stop for refreshments and sample traditional Greek cuisine.

Somewhere along the way it started raining which made the drive all the more scenic and beautiful with clouds floating all around us. and of course it provided much required relief from the October heat.

Magical Delphi
Magical Delphi

Exploring Delphi’s Timeless Importance in Greek History

Delphi, situated in the lap of Mount Parnassus, holds a pivotal place in Greek history and mythology. Renowned as the seat of the Oracle of Apollo, Delphi was considered the center of the world in ancient times. We all know that pilgrims from all corners of the Greek world journeyed here seeking guidance from the Oracle, whose prophecies influenced significant decisions and events not only for the common man but for the Royals too.

Today, Delphi continues to captivate visitors with its rich archaeological treasures and breathtaking scenery. A visit to the Delphi Archaeological Museum offers insights into the region’s illustrious past, showcasing artifacts unearthed from the ancient site. Wander through the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, the Athenian Treasury, and the ancient Amphitheater, each echoing the whispers of era bygone.

Delphi Archaeological Site
Delphi Archaeological Site

Visit to Delphi Museum

We reached Delphi by 12:30 PM and decided to head straight to the Delphi Museum. It was easy to figure out our way – Maps give you the correct directions. Parking was a little problem as we had to park by the side of the road. We then headed to the ticket counter, bought our tickets and by 1 PM we were inside the museum. Excited to see and understand the culture of Greece which we had been hearing and reading about for so long. A walk through the enigmatic history.

The Delphi Archaeological Museum stands as a guardian of Greece’s ancient heritage, preserving a vast collection of artifacts unearthed from the sacred site of Delphi.

Ticket Cost and Timings
  • Timings – Museum in Greece typically opens around 8:00 or 8:30 AM and closes between 3:00 and 4:00 PM, depending on the season. However, these times may vary, so it’s best to check the official website or contact the museum directly for the most accurate information.
  • Cost – 12 EUROS for Adult

As you step into the museum you are surrounded by the wonders that have excavated from the ancient land of Delphi. It is a treasure trove which has spanned through the centuries of Greek civilization. Every sculpture is a masterpiece in itself. However a few of them really stand out –

  1. Charioteer of Delphi: This iconic bronze statue, dating back to the 5th century BC, is a masterpiece of ancient Greek sculpture.
  2. Navel of the Earth Stone: An emblematic artifact believed to mark the center of the world according to ancient Greek mythology.
  3. Sphinx of Naxos: A majestic marble sculpture depicting a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a woman.
Sculpture inside Museum
Sculpture inside Museum

The detailing that you see in works displayed in this museum is unbelievable and breathtaking. We loved it here and we found ourselves short on time. We spent 3 hrs in the museum, rushing through the scultptures trying to witness as much history as we could. We had to leave as it was the closing time for the museum. We had a great time there and would definitely recommend you to give it a visit.

Tips for Visitors:
  • It usually takes 1-2 hrs to stroll through the complete museum. However based on your interest, it is possible that you end up spending more time there.
  • Read the accompanying descriptions for each sculpture to gain a deeper understanding of their historical and cultural significance.
  • Photography may be allowed in certain areas of the museum, but be respectful of any restrictions and refrain from using flash photography.
  • Consider purchasing a guidebook or audio guide to enhance your museum experience and learn more about the exhibits.

Delphi Amphitheatre

After a quick visit to the museum, we planned to quick explore the Greek Amphitheatre which is of great historical importance. Again, this is one place that we had heard about a lot and it was really exciting to see firsthand.

Amphitheatre view from the top
Amphitheatre view from the top

The Delphi amphitheatre, also known as the Theatre of Delphi, is an ancient Greek theater located in the archaeological site of Delphi, Greece. The Delphi amphitheatre is part of the larger archaeological site of Delphi, which is open to visitors. Tourists can explore the theater, walk through the ancient ruins, and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

The theater was primarily used for dramatic performances, music competitions, and religious ceremonies dedicated to the god Apollo. It was a focal point of cultural and religious gatherings in ancient Greece. Later on, Pythian games were held here where people from around the world used to participate. These games were of Olympic significance.

This Amphitheatre provides scenic backdrop. It was built into the natural slope of Mount Parnassus, offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape. It could accommodate around 5,000 spectators and was constructed in a semi-circular shape with tiered seating carved into the hillside. Today you see ruins strewn all around though it has been maintained really well.

Notable Fact

Acoustics: One of the remarkable features of the Delphi amphitheatre is its excellent acoustics. Even today, visitors can experience the remarkable sound quality within the theater, which allowed performances to be heard clearly by all spectators. Interesting – Right ? We were amazed at this piece of info. However we could not experience it for ourselves as we had very little time at hand and also it was raining, so we had to rush.

Infront of Amphitheatre
Infront of Amphitheatre

By 5 PM we were done visiting the important sites in Delphi – at least the ones that we wanted to cover. Due to lack of time we could not explore much in Delphi but we suggest you spend at least a day at this historical place and cover all that this place has to offer. We lucky to have been here during the rains as it cooled down the temperatures, else we heard that this place really takes a toll on the visitors due to heat.

We planned to leave immediately for Athens from here. Our plan was to reach Athens by 8PM. Thankfully everything went as per plan and we reach Athens on-time. Though it was dark by the time we touched city limits, but since the roads in Greece are great we had no issues.

We came back from our trip – satisfied and happy. Happy that we were able to cover all that we had in mind. Definitely the credit goes to Self-Drive option that we chose. Because of that we could plan this itinerary, having the flexibility to visit places as per our time and convenience. We will HIGHLY RECOMMEND self-drive option, if you are comfortable driving.

Hope you liked our account of Meteora and Delphi. We have tried to provide as much info possible.

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